Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States responded to thousands of accusations of sexual abuse by clergy by promising reform through mandatory review boards. As sexual assault attorneys in O’Fallon, IL, we are cautiously optimistic to see this response.
The church claimed these panels would be independent and contain lay people in each diocese who would fairly examine allegations and ensure that abusive priests would not be allowed to remain in the ministry.
AP concludes review boards fail to keep their promises
An extensive investigation by the Associated Press (AP) finds that after nearly two decades since the church formed review boards, many panels have failed to live up to those commitments.
Instead, AP reports boards appointed by bishops routinely operate in secrecy and work to undermine sexual abuse claims from survivors, shelter accused priests from punishment and help the church avoid paying damages.
Hundreds of accused priests remain active in the church
A previous AP investigation found that nearly 1,700 credibly accused priests remain unsupervised in the church. AP’s findings include:
• Of nearly 2,000 accused priests, 85% have no supervision
• 168 remain active in the church as ministers in the U.S. and overseas, in lay positions, as fill-in priests or as church administrators
• 193 others who were identified remain active outside the church, working in education, medicine, counseling and social work
• 65 priests have been charged with sex crimes since leaving the church
Survivors report being abused again by the process
An investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s office says dioceses often investigate victims’ personal lives in an attempt to discredit them. The attorney general’s probe of the state’s six dioceses says the process by review boards ranges from too complex to too general, is unclear to survivors and allows panels to operate without transparency.
In addition, the attorney general’s preliminary report found that three out of four accusations in Illinois were not substantiated or investigated by review boards. If you are a sexual assault survivor, an experienced and compassionate personal injury attorney can help you hold your abuser accountable for their actions.